PK Anil Kumar : In Conversation With An Advertising Creative

P K Anil Kumar has been an advertising professional with over 28 years in the industry and has worked with big agencies like — McCann Erickson Delhi and Mumbai, RK Swamy BBDO Delhi, Bates Chi & Partners, BBDO Lanka among others.

He worked with brands,such as Nerolac, Onida, NDTV, Marico, Vaseline, Fortune Oils, Aquaguard, Bacardi, Sprite, MasterCard, Tang and Perfetti to name a few.

P K Anil, who also has had his share of awards like 3 Cannes Lions, One Show, Spikes, AdFest, among others.

He’s also worked on feature films as screenplay writer, dialogue writer, and lyricist.

And also made couple of short films which he has written, directed and acted in.

Currently he’s Creative Head INDIA and ECD, McCann Health

We revisit a conversation with PK Anil Kumar after 10 years. We had earlier spoken to him here…

Why are you into Advertising?
Advertising is not a profession for someone who gets to do everything that he loves to do like a hobby. It’s actually having fun at the expense of a client’s brief.

Another reason could be that it’s not rocket science.
Because I didn’t really like Physics even though I took science stream to please my parents, neighbours and the society as a whole.
Somewhere I think God silently guides you to where you want to go.

From a very young age I used to sketch and paint; I used to write poems and was also active on stage.
So the only place I thought where I could utilize all my talents without sacrificing or compromising on another talent would be advertising.
I am one of those few lucky people who get paid for having fun with my hobbies.
And believe me, it’s been a wonderful journey so far.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I wanted to polish my art skills and study more about the subject so I wanted to get into an Art College.
But I was not fortunate enough to get into an Art College, even though I tried my luck 3 times .
For Chandigarh College of Art.
Three years in a row but didn’t get beyond shortlist.
Then I used my writer’s card to get an entry into the world of advertising.
And kept painting to keep the hobby alive.

But then life teaches you so many wonderful lessons, and if you are an honest student, you can excel on your own, and without having a certificate from an institution.

And then after graduation I did PGD Advt and PR from SCMS, Kochi. To get a broader and deeper perspective on advertising

You have won so many awards etc. How has that impacted your career?
If rewards are bread and butter, Awards are like jam and cheese.
Awards help to stay self motivated in this world where your are constantly working under pressure and tight deadlines.
And unlike other professions where you get credit for your creative contribution, in advertising no one knows who the creators.

You are in the business of advertising and if you don’t build a brand out of yourself then it’s like a doctor who can’t treat himself. Hence awards also help in image building.

So, awards help people identify the talent and the passion behind a creation.
It has helped me earn a lot of respect in the industry.

Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
Well, a good creative work is of no use if it doesn’t help a brand.
The success of a brand also depends on impactful advertising for which one of the factors is that it has got to be creative.

Good advertising can’t sell a bad product. Likewise creativity alone can’t help a brand no matter how great it is. Everything has to compliment each other.

Having said that, it’s the brand that does well in the market win awards.
Obviously, it also varies from awards to awards. There are effectiveness awards, creative awards and media awards. And every award has its own criteria. I would say a brand doing well in the market by itself is an award.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
There were not one but many.
From Sunil Gavaskar, Ian Bothom, Vivian Richards, Charlie Chaplin, Steffi Graff, Martina Navratilova, Amitabh Bachhan, Imran khan, Rajani and Lalitaji(The TV Stars), Alyque Padamsee, Michel Jackson, Mohammad Ali, Maradona, Carl Lewis, Satyajit Ray, Spielberg, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mohanlal, Shiny Wilson, PT Usha to Safdar Hashmi to name a few.

Role models are ones who you look up to and motivate you through their perseverance, performance and personality.
You would not want to be what they are but you love them for their passion and dedication towards their goal.

Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
Again to mention one name won’t be doing justified.
During different stages of my advertising journey I’ve come across different sources of inspiration and support.
In the beginning of my career it was Raghu Bhat who guided me to get into a advertising agency. I worked with Raghu Manish in McCann Mumbai. Then working with Kaustav Niyogi ( Kosty) McCann Delhi in 1998 was a great learning experience. And in 2004 during my second stint with McCann in Mumbai I met Prasoon Joshi, who needs no introduction. He is an institution in himself, with whom I worked for 7 years. I’ve learnt a lot from him not just about advertising but also about creativity as a whole, and life.
And again now in 2022, I’m back with McCann and Prasoon. My third stint.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes in many forms, from many directions.
Your eyes, your nose, your ears, your brain, your conscience are all receivers.
You have to keep them alert every time.
Nature, Culture, Religion, Life, Art, People, Silence, Organism, Space they all inspire me.
Advertising should be a product of everything that you are surrounded with.
They are
A reflection of the society.
A projection of insights.
An amalgamation of dreams.
An exaggeration of beautiful thoughts.
A recollection of memories.
A collection of anecdotes

Tell us something about the work environment at your agency…
Rich and Lively.
It is a privilege to work under the leadership of Prasoon Joshi.
The environment is always brimming with brilliant ideas with young, young at heart and energetic team around.
We are an agency that believes in enjoying every aspect of the work to its fullest.
We work without letting the pressure affect our creative output.
We make sure that we laugh out loud when we are happy and crack the clients’ brief by having happy session.
We play music, crack jokes and share food.
We work together like a family.

And we’re also trying to bring the Work Life balance. Asking everyone to leave the office by 6.30-7 pm. And spend quality time with family, friends and hobbies. And not to take work home. I think in the last two years we’ve worked enough from home.

Our main motto is to bring happiness in life. Be it through work or play or anything we do.
If we are happy, things are positive.
And vice versa.

You have been a lyricist and screenwriter. tell us something about that journey…
As I said, writing is something I’ve always enjoyed.
I’ve expressed my experiences, feelings, emotions and thoughts through different forms of writing. Be it poetry, stories, jokes or songs.

And in advertising you have to tell stories in 60 seconds or sometimes in 30 seconds.
And I always wanted to explore the bigger longer medium.
While I’ve written lots of scripts but not every piece of work gets converted to a feature film.
I got to work on the screenplay and dialogues of a film produced by Mithun Chakravarty called “ISHQEDARRIYAN”. Directed by V K Prakash, a renowned Ad film and feature film maker.

And the I wrote the Hindi screenplay, dialogues, original lyrics for “PRAANA” a multilingual film starring Nithya Menen, again directed by VKP.

Then I’ve written, directed and also acted in couple of short films and ads.
I direct short films once in a while, especially on social issues.

So film making has been an interesting experience. Creativity on a larger canvas.

Do you have any kind of a program to nurture and train young talent?
At personal level I was recently invited by the Armed Forces to conduct a Creative Workshop for the locals children of Kupwara, in the Kashmir valley, help them realise their hidden potential and guide them to use their talent and skills to build their career and achieve their dreams.
It was a great opportunity to contribute to the nation in bringing the misguided youth to the mainstream.

At the official level we have Mentorship programs for juniors who are relatively new to the environment. We experienced guys help them deal with work pressure, share experiences and how to tackle difficult situations as creativity is a subjective space.

And then whenever anyone wants to connect with me for any guidance, I extend my whole hearted support.

I want to meet them like the good people I met during my struggling days rather than like people who found faults and discouraged me.

The best way to nurture and train young talent is to guide them on a daily basis, while you are still working with them.
Because nurturing cannot be a 4 day program. The lessons from a workshop end where they take place if it is not carried back to the cubicles and cabins.

What about new and young film makers/photographers? Do you consciously keep looking for newer talent and try someone completely new?
Yes. We do encourage the new talent to come and work with us. But then it all depends on a client’s brief and requirements. So based on a the kind of work we have, we invite and involve talents.

Tell us something about McCann Health and the creative work that happens here.
Healthcare advertising is not very different from any other form of advertising. Yes, there are few rules and guidelines you’ve to follow and can’t be wacky or over the top, inspite of the fact that we are talking to the same target audience with different needs.

And I personally feel every kind of advertising is about health.

Insurance advertising is all about Financial health.
Sports and Comfort advertising is about Physical health.
Luxury, Entertainment and Education advertising is about Mental health.
Retail, Travel, Hospitality advertising are about Social health
Food, Energy drinks and Healthcare products advertising are about Medical health.

And finally all kind of health contributes to wealth.

Out here, there is a thin line between strategic and creative thinking and everyone works as a team rather than different departments.

Here we have to be sensitive towards the message we are putting across.

Any notable digital campaigns?
We recently did a COVID Appropriate Behavior campaign for UNICEF that was very well received.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Advertising is a serious business, and it is great fun if you understand the seriousness involved. It’s a 24/7 job. If you are not addicted, passionate, ready to meet deadlines as if you’re meeting your lover, love working under pressure as if playing pubg sitting on the pot, if you can’t take rejections in your stride and bounce back, you should stay away.

Not every piece of work you come up with will end up as landmark campaign.
Many will go straight to the bins and very few see the light of the day.
So, think that every time you fall in love in the day, it might just end up as a one night stand.
So enjoy those few moments before getting dumped.
Learn to enjoy the journey and you will realize that it takes many short journeys before you arrive at the destination.

What is your dream project?
“Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi Ki Har Khwaish Pe Dum Nikley”

Mac or PC?
It’s what I do with them makes a Mac or a PC, what they are. Content is king and they are just electronic slaves. I’m happy with either or neither. I want them when I need them.

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
I would have liked to take Mother Teresa out for dinner. She would have taught me how much to consume without wasting food while there are lakhs of children going to bed empty stomach every night. A dinner over an enlightening conversation.

What’s on your iPod? Spotify?
Whatever is on my mind at that moment.

Actually for me music is freedom. And I can enjoy music only if it is mixed with pure air, float in the fragrance of my surroundings, and blend with the ambience before touching my soul. I don’t like it trapped in a wire and getting stuffed into my ears.

Whats your Twitter Handle? Instagram?


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